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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Urgency of Community Participation

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People or societies are centres of development. Hence such policies need to be made that address common people and develop their potentials. In pre-colonial times common property systems were broken that caused serious consequences. Power went in the hands of rich and affluent and the poor men and women had to suffer a lot.

As important component of the natural ecosystems human beings serve as important links in the process of flow of energy and transfer of materials. Besides this, they take away major shares of natural resources and go on disturbing the normal natural processes of environment. Their activities disturb the delicate natural fabric of co- existence among organisms of nature. Hence, human being should act as a social partner in the natural system.  
        
According to modern concept, people or society is the centre of development and that the development is for the whole society including all sections of people. It is considered that poor men and women are vulnerable to all types of adverse environmental conditions. Still, these groups contribute to the economic growth up to greater extents. If these people are empowered, a state of social harmony can be established which is most essential for the economic growth.

Policies are to be made that help all people to develop their potential, to improve their productivity, to increase their contribution to economy and to share the rewards of development as equal partners. Such a model of development which incorporates the development of all the sections of society is called as Sustainable Development. Why is such a development called as Sustainable Development? Because only this type of development can sustain our environment and society.


Only the Sustainable Development can sustain our people and societies

In pre- colonial times, the natural resources like waste lands, fishing ponds, ground water, pastures, water points like wells, rivers and lakes; were managed by local societies themselves on sustainable basis. In those days local people worked under common property systems. Gradually, with the changing situations, many common property resources started vanishing as local communities were integrated into larger economic and political systems with political leaders as heads on the places of traditional authorities. Thus the common property systems were broken down that caused serious problems some of which were over fishing, overgrazing, deforestation, land degradation and loss of biodiversity.



It is considered that poor men and women are vulnerable to all types of adverse environmental conditions. Still, these groups contribute to the economic growth up to greater extents. If these people are empowered, a state of social harmony can be established which is most essential for the economic growth.

These problems gradually aggravated up to such an extent that the world started talking about the urgent need of the participation of communities or social groups in the management of natural resources. The need of participation of common human beings in the conservation and management of natural resources was felt on international level also. As a result, a series of international conferences were organised and policies were formulated to ensure active participation of human beings in the conservation and management of resources as a social partner. Some of the important conferences and policies that strongly advocated the necessity of involvement of society or the social groups in the conservation and management of natural resources are mentioned below.



  • ‘Our Common Future’- a report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, prepared by General Assembly of United Nations,
  • ‘Caring for the Earth’- report by IUCN i.e. International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural resources,
  • World Development Report, by the World Bank,


  • Agenda-21’- the Action Plan for speedy development of poor and developing countries, was prepared during the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro- the capital of Brazil from June 3rd to June 14th, 1992. The Earth Summit is officially known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

Now, the whole world has accepted that people’s actions and community participation are essential for achieving efficient implementation of programmes pertaining to the protection of environment. The theory of community participation in environmental action explains that common people should have rights to share in decision making. It has been reported that community development movement of 1950s and 1960s resulted in exploitation of masses while these movements tried for rural development through local self help. Thus, the movements failed to bring about the sustainable development. The concept of community participation gradually changed its shape through people’s actions and protests in the form of various movements of people like movements of Bisnois, Chipko movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan, APPIKO, Social fencing of Shivalik Hills by Sukhomajari people, The Silent Valley Movement, The Joint Forest Management in West Bengal. These are a few examples of people’s actions for the conservation of environment.

The post independence projects of developments initiated resistance from indigenous communities whenever their resource bases faced dangers of exploitation from external people and government agencies.  The resistance from indigenous communities was catalysed by different non-government organisations in 1960s and onwards. The movement of people towards conservation of resource bases can be grouped in following categories-

o   Promotion of conservation actions by traditional institutions,o   Resistance from village communities towards anti-environmental projects,our   People’s actions initiated, led or catalysed  by local organisations,o   Prevention of environmental degradation by NGOs through state sponsored projects.


Key Words : poor men and women,co- existence ,social harmony ,Sustainable Development,common property resources, overgrazing, deforestation, land degradation ,Agenda-21,Silent Valley Movement,Joint Forest Management 





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